Who Killed California's Economy?

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Right now California's economy is moribund, and the prospects for a quick turnaround are not good. Unable to pay its bills, the state is issuing IOUs; its once strong credit rating has collapsed. The state that once boasted the seventh-largest gross domestic product in the world is looking less like a celebrated global innovator and more like a fiscal basket case along the lines of Argentina or Latvia.

It took some amazing incompetence to toss this best-endowed of places down into the dustbin of history. Yet conventional wisdom views the crisis largely as a legacy of Proposition 13, which in effect capped only taxes.

This lets too many malefactors off the hook. I covered the Proposition 13 campaign for the Washington Post and examined its aftermath up close. It passed because California was running huge surpluses at the time, even as soaring property taxes were driving people from their homes.  read more »

Death of the Suburbs: Part Nauseum

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For decades, those who know best have been chronicling the death of the suburbs. In every new announcement of demographic data, they find evidence that people are “moving back” to the core cities, even though they never moved away. The coverage of the latest Bureau of the Census city population estimates set a new standard. “Cities Grow at Suburb’s Expense During Recession” was the headline in The Wall Street Journal.  read more »

View from the UK: The Progressive’s Dilemma

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American progressives long have looked upon Britain’s Labour Party as an exemplar of how to prioritize social welfare without entirely alienating business. Unlike their European counterparts, whose overly suspicious view of wealth and overly generous view of social welfare spending make poor role models for America, the British Labour Party has brokered a “partnership” between wealth and welfare over the years more suitable to the American psyche.  read more »

Lessons from the Left: When Radicals Rule – For Thirty Years

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Contrary to popular notions held even here in southern California, Santa Monica was never really a beach town or bedroom community. It was a blue-collar industrial town, home to the famed Douglas Aircraft from before World War II until the 1970s.

When I first lived there in the early ’70s, the city was pretty dilapidated, decaying and declining (except for the attractive neighborhoods of large expensive homes in the city’s northern sections). I remember a lot of retirees, students, and like me and my wife, renters of small apartments in old buildings. The tiredness of the place was incongruous with its great location and weather. But then the first of several spectacular rises in real estate values took off.  read more »

Downtown Character and Street Performers

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By Richard Reep

Carmen Ruest, Director of Cirque de Soleil, recently revealed her start as a street performer, or busker, in Canada. The interviewer did not hesitate to contrast this with the current state of Downtown Orlando, which forbids street performers. Eliminating this ban will improve Orlando's urban consciousness, both downtown and elsewhere, and improve the city in general.  read more »

Shrinking the Rust Belt

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An article in the London Daily Telegraph suggesting that President Obama might back a major program of bulldozing parts of cities in the Rust Belt has put so-called “shrinking cities” back in the spotlight. Many cities around the country, especially in the Rust Belt have experienced major population loss in their urban cores which has sometimes spilled into their entire metro area. They have thousands of abandoned homes, decayed infrastructure, environmental challenges, and no growth to justify a belief that many districts will ever be repopulated.  read more »

Did Homeowners Cause The Great Recession?

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The person who caused the current world recession can be found not on Wall Street or the city of London, but instead could be you, and your next-door neighbor--the people who put so much of their savings and credit to buy a house.

Increasingly, conventional wisdom places the fundamental blame for the worldwide downturn on people's desire--particularly in places like the U.K., the U.S. and Spain--to own their own home. Acceptance of the long-term serfdom of renting, the logic increasingly goes, could help restore order and the rightful balance of nature.  read more »

The Suburban Economy and its Enemies

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Treasury Secretary Ken Henry’s recent address to business economists was an apt prism through which to survey Sydney’s immediate past and distant future. According to reports, he said ‘the [Chinese] resources boom had produced a “two-speed” economy, with unemployment rising in the south-eastern states but falling in the west and north’. Dr Henry is reported to have told his Sydney audience, ‘I don’t think everybody in this room should be moving to Perth.  read more »

Letter From Asia's Co-Prosperity Sphere

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To visit banks in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, I recently flew into Shanghai and out from Singapore. In two weeks, I rode a lot of trains and met a lot of bankers. When I got home to Europe, it felt like I had traversed a Greater Economic Co-Prosperity Sphere, although I was never sure if it was one that belonged to China, Japan, or the international banking system. Here's a highly personal, thumbnail report on the region's development and some of the local rail network:  read more »

Amid Obama's Change is More of the Same

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The Obama administration has been, so far, hierarchical and even conservative in its thinking. Following and even surpassing the Bush administration’s reliance on an M.B.A.-trained elite, which drove the country nearly to ruin, the Obama approach seems to boil down to finding the smartest guy in the room, rather than utilizing people with hands-on experience or acquired wisdom.  read more »